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Posts by Laurie Fendrich


May 16, 2012, 10:57 AM ET

Paint It High and Deep

Most working artists in America (certainly most who teach at colleges and universities) hold a Master of Fine Arts degree, established by the College Art Association, more than 50 years ago, as the terminal degree in the fine arts. As Dan Berrett writes in this week’s Chronicle, however, that may be about to change. The College Art Association is now tiptoeing around the idea of embracing the studio Ph.D. as the new terminal degree in the fine arts. Recently, the CAA hosted a workshop entitled, “Ph.D. for Artists: Sense or Nonsense?” The title tells you everything you need to know about how differently people in the art world view the idea. On one side are those for whom a Ph.D. in studio art can’t come too soon. It would address the needs of internationally active, postmodern artists who are prominent in the contemporary art world and strive to stay competitive with their... Read More

April 9, 2012, 07:28 PM ET

The Other 1 Percent

On Saturday, a friend who lives in upstate New York invited me to come along with her to an annual “county pageant” at a local resort hotel. As soon as I arrived, I saw that even though the word “beauty” wasn’t anywhere in sight—neither on the banner, nor on any of the brochures—the county pageant quacked a lot like the duck commonly called a “beauty pageant.” The pageant I attended was in an enormous, dimly lit, multitiered auditorium whose walls were covered with red velvet. Here and there, on a few lonely sconces, I caught the sparkle of fake gold. Overhead spotlights lighted a wide, shallow proscenium. Some sort of unidentifiable (at least to me) teen music filled the room. (Later it would almost drown out the voice of the female MC.)  Once seated, I surveyed the audience—300 or so people who looked to me like solid members of the American middle class. They... Read More

March 19, 2012, 09:11 AM ET

Here's Looking at Me, Kid

That women are more vain than men seems obvious, at first glance. Take the vast amount of retail space and the enormous sums of money devoted to the shopping and primping needs of women, compared to those of men. Think about all the women who, daily, paint their faces before they go out in public. Or consider how many women happily drop a couple of hundred bucks on a new hair color, or willingly hobble around in a painful pair of super-high, spiked-heeled shoes, just for the sake of appearance. (Only women categorize part of their footwear inventory as “walking shoes.” ) Vanity, of course, is self-love. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau identified two kinds of self-love—one a healthy sort of self-interestedness, which he thought living in society destroyed, the other the vanity that comes about from living in society—a self-consciousness that renders us constantly aware of... Read More

February 15, 2012, 08:44 AM ET

Harvard Grad Succeeds!

You’re right, I don’t know much about basketball. Even so, I’m caught up in “Linsanity”—infatuation with the story of Jeremy Lin, the super-great Knicks point guard who’s the first Chinese American to make it big in the NBA. He’s helped (understatement) the Knicks by winning the last six games in a row, making for the longest running streak in their season.   It’d be hard for me not to be part of Linsanity. First, this is happening in New York, the city where people come to make it, but most often fail. If you make it here, it’s a world story. Second, I’m married to basketball-watching freaks. My husband, who way back in the day played guard in high school, loves the game so much he’ll watch reruns of games from two decades ago. Plus I’ve got a daughter who’s a passionate Knicks fan. Lin is all the two of them talk about lately. Although the MSG/Time Warner... Read More

January 23, 2012, 03:38 PM ET

The Fall of Photography

Last week, the International Center for Photography in New York opened an exhibition of works by the great street and crime photographer Arthur Fellig (1899-1968), professionally known as Weegee because of his Ouija-board prescience about arriving at crime scenes so quickly. Also last week, Eastman Kodak—the company that made the kind of film Weegee and other major modern photographers relied on—declared bankruptcy. The end of traditional film photography was augured in the early 1990s, when digital cameras first started being sold, but Kodak’s demise signals yet another step in the march to its doom. It demonstrates that for all the darkroom holdouts, most people today use digital cameras for their photographs. Face it, darkroom fans, times have changed. Almost all images—including paintings—sooner or later land in someone’s computer. The whole world is pixelating, and... Read More

January 10, 2012, 10:48 AM ET

The Résumé Reader

There’s an identifiable human type out there—I don’t know what others call it, or how its particularities manifest themselves in academe or the rest of the world, but in the art world, I call it the “Résumé Reader.” Say I’m at an art opening for a friend’s exhibition and I see someone I know. I smile, walk over to the person, and offer the usual, “Hey, nice to see you. How are you?" With a non-Résumé Reader, what follows is the ordinary stuff—something like this: “Hi, great to see you, too! I’m doing OK. My classes are going really well—I have a couple of really interesting students. Plus I’m lucky because I’ve got a course off, so I’m getting more studio time this semester. I’ve stretched up some big canvases to work on. I’ve been feeling pretty good—swimming again regularly. Anyway, how are you?” Thereupon follows a chat—some pleasant... Read More

December 12, 2011, 01:45 PM ET

Dear Jane, What Did you Look Like? Love, Laurie

Reading Jane Austen’s four greatest novels (P&P, S&S, Emma, and Persuasion) at least 20 times each over the course of my life, dipping almost daily into their delights, and memorizing whole passages of these novels by heart, fail to qualify me as a Janeite. For that honor, I would need to have memorized much more than such obviously revered passages as the opening line to Pride and Prejudice or Darcy’s chastened second proposal to Elizabeth Bennett. I’d need to know about Austen’s snarky remarks about neighbors with fat necks and bad breath, and how she preferred her brother Henry to her other brothers (once exclaiming, “Oh! What a Henry!”)  I’d also have had to prove myself worthy of being asked to join the Janeite club by trekking to every location where Jane Austen once sucked in a molecule of air or her characters took a morning walk. Even so, I was atingle at the news... Read More

November 22, 2011, 12:24 PM ET

Put Poor Students to Work

In his speech on Friday at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich offered an imaginative plan to lift poor students out of the cycle of poverty: Have them clean their own schools for money. Not only would the students earn income, they’d build a strong work ethic. The only thing holding us back from following through with this truly terrific idea are child labor laws, which Mr. Gingrich called “truly stupid.” Mr. Gingrich’s plan, although morally and economically sound, unfortunately doesn’t go far enough. To instill a true work ethic in poor students, they need to double up on cleaning schools. I propose that after cleaning their own schools, squads of them be sent out to clean rich kids’ schools—especially prep schools. Not only would they earn even more money, they’d be inspired by having to mop the bathrooms where rich kids... Read More

November 14, 2011, 01:54 PM ET

Drawing’s Got Talent

For every college class of 20 or so beginning-drawing students, one or two show up with extraordinary drawing talent. I’m talking about students with a ready ability to see and draw shape, to see and draw in proportion, to draw to scale, to draw the symmetry of things, to sense visual balance, to place objects on a picture plane in an interesting way, and to use a sensitive touch in their mark and line. Talented drawing students not only find it fairly easy to make drawings where a doggie looks like a doggie, they also draw the doggie in a beautiful way that transcends mere mechanical imitation. Those of us who teach drawing know how to spot the super-talented drawing students on the first day of class—generally within the first 20 minutes. They always draw boldly from the get-go, using both their shoulder and arm, rather than merely the hand. Many of them show off at least a... Read More

October 31, 2011, 01:25 PM ET

Tax the Poor

In an article in the liberal online rag The Huffington Post, Michael McAuliffe points out that several Republican leaders and leading conservatives are asking for the poor to pay more in taxes. McAuliffe quotes Senator John Coryn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a speech given in the Senate this past July: "A majority of American households paid no income tax in 2009. Zero. Zip. Nada. No income tax was paid by 51 percent of the households in America in 2009.” Coryn added, “[T]o show how out of whack things have gotten, 30 percent of American households actually made money from the tax system by way of refundable tax credits -- the earned income tax credit, among others.” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch chimed in during the same Senate debate with this: “The poor need jobs! And they also need to share some of the responsibility.” McAuliffe... Read More